50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 33
Author: O.Z. Livaneli/ Zülfü Livaneli
Thanks to Netflix’s knowing me better than I know myself the film Bliss was suggested as a “dark foreign emotional dramas” (Netflix you know me so well) and one night when I was home alone I watched it from start to finish. It was so good I watched it again the next night, and it was then that I noticed that it was based on a novel. I was easily able to procure a copy from my local library.
Bliss begins immediately after the brutal rape of Meryem by her Uncle, the religious leader of her small village in Turkey. She is locked into a shed with a rope while the village and her family waits for Meryem to hang herself. While the village knows that Meryem has been attacked, Meryem is unable to divulge her attacker because while she knows who raped her, she can’t believe the attack happened. Meryem is defiant and refuses to commit suicide.
In addition to Meryem, we are introduced to Ifran, a Harvard educated professor who is in the middle of a mid-life crises and decides to go sailing to escape the life he had grown bored of. We also meet Cemal, Meryem’s cousin, a solider serving in the Turkish Army.
Because Meryem refuses to commit suicide, the family decides that the only way to deal with her is to have Cemal perform an honor killing when he returns from his military service. But since honor killings are illegal, they plan for him to take Meryem to Istanbul to do the deed. Meryem believes that “Going to Istanbul” is a good thing as many girls before her have gone to Istanbul and never returned. When they arrive in Istanbul Cemal is unable to kill Meryem and he and Meryem find themselves traveling with Ifran, trying to decide what to do with their lives.
Some of the reviews I read of this book (and I don’t read reviews very often) said that this book was anti-Islamic, but I disagree. Yes the people in the book including Meryem’s Rapist/Uncle were Muslims but I think it was done to show how distorted a religion can become because of personal pride and greed. One of the things that I did like about this book was the fact that they simply were Muslim. Unlike in my earlier read of The Girl In The Tangerine Scarf it wasn’t written for a Western audience so some cultural things don’t get explained, which because I my background I was grateful for.
I found most of the parts about Ifran to be insufferable, “Cry me some more of your rich man tears”, but I found Meryem to be charming and Cemal to be really just a scared man with PTSD. I liked the movie ending more than I liked the book ending – not that the book ending was bad, I probably would have liked it more if I had read it first.
Overall Rating: 3/5